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Tijuana finds 11 dead in 3 days

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Police discovered the tortured and burned bodies of six men in an empty lot Monday morning, ending a period of relative calm in this border city beset by drug war violence.

Eleven bodies have been discovered since Saturday in violence believed to be drug-related, including the corpse of a woman found in a barrel, state and federal authorities said.

The weekend tally pushed the city’s death toll this year to more than 260, compared with about 152 homicides at this time last year, and underscored authorities’ difficulties curbing organized crime.

None of the victims had been identified by late Monday, and authorities did not offer any motives for the killings. But the grisly nature of the deaths -- some of the victims’ heads were wrapped in plastic -- suggested that the victims were killed by gangsters, authorities said.

Tijuana had remained relatively quiet since a shootout in April claimed the lives of 13 gunmen. That incident, police sources say, possibly stemmed from a feud between rival branches of the Arellano Felix drug cartel, which has controlled drug trafficking in the city for more than a decade.

It’s unclear whether the latest killings augur more violence, authorities said. “We have to wait and see. . . . Obviously, we are worried,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Salvador Ortiz Morales said at a news conference at police headquarters here.

The city’s organized crime groups have been under pressure since President Felipe Calderon dispatched the Mexican military to Tijuana in January 2007. More than 3,000 soldiers, supported by federal and state agents, now spearhead the offensive against the cartels.

The weekend’s slayings bore many hallmarks of organized crime hits. The six men found early Monday had been shot execution-style. Their bodies had been doused with gasoline and set ablaze; some of the victims were partially burned. On Saturday night, three men were found fatally shot in an SUV. The body of a man discovered Monday in the Tijuana River bore signs of torture and was wrapped in a carpet.

In other developments, gunmen in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, killed the head of the state police, Raymundo Gonzalez Mendoza. Five other people in Sinaloa also were slain, including two who were decapitated.

So far this year, more than 2,000 people have died in violence related to the drug war across the country, according to the Mexico City-based newspaper El Universal. Last year’s total through June was 1,410, according to the newspaper


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